Guided by the Force, Some Traditions Are Destiny

by Matthew Koehler January 07, 2018

Father holding her child up above with his hands, lying on a couch

Having kids means reexamining some of the ideological stances you took against cultural and familial traditions as single person. With little ones in tow, ubiquitous seasonal decorations are impossible to ignore ("Who’s that man in the red suit, Daddy?"). Four-year-olds don’t really care about a big person’s personal objections.
Yet some traditions seem to be a vast current we’re compelled to swim with.
On a weekend not long ago, I decided we needed a break from the Holiday music. I turned on the TV, muted it, and then left the room. Several minutes later, my wife came to find me and showed me our daughter wrapped up on the couch, completely enthralled.
“You’re up,” she said.
“Excellent,” I replied. To paraphrase a famous emperor, this set up had transpired according to my design.
I switched the sound over from Christmas music to the TV and the distinctive sound of a light saber igniting suddenly filled the apartment. My nearly five-year-old daughter exclaimed, “Daddy! How’d he get that light saber?”
She’d watched this scene before and knew exactly how Luke Skywalker saves himself but asks anyways.
“He used the Force,” I tell her and then pretend use the force on her. She responds by blocking my magic with her own before leaping off the couch to grab a red Kylo Ren saber, a mutual favorite.
For a self-proclaimed Grinch and Star Wars super fan, the interlude in holiday spirit warmed my heart. I’ve fantasized about this day since she was born, slowly building her up to the live action movies since she was old enough to hold a light saber.
With my daughter, the saga continues.
Rebel alliances, light sabers, and Sith lords were a big part of my childhood. I read many of the books. My brother and I (he’s not a super fan) even have a favorite line that we still quote when the situation calls for it. If either one of us asks for something, the other will offer it while affecting the Emperor’s cadence, “You want this, don’t you?”
It’s not a memorable line but it, too, is a part of my Star Wars tradition.
What these movies have become to so many generations of fans is due to the enduring nature of its story. The themes and characters are easily identifiable, and the plot isn’t overly complex but still delivers moral ambiguity. There’s good guys, bad guys, spaceships with lasers, laser swords (scientifically impossible), magic, princesses, and fuzzy bear creatures.
While it would be inaccurate to say that every single person old enough to talk in complete sentences knows Star Wars, it’s safe to assume that most Americans (and much of the world) knows of that galaxy long ago and far away.
Vader is almost as ubiquitous as Santa.
My daughter understands all this, especially the princesses and light sabers. She’s been slowly indoctrinated into the Star Wars universe since she was old enough to swing a plastic, but fully functioning light saber. She’ll chase me around with one, hissing into her hand that she’s my father.
However, unlike so many things parents realize they don’t actually have control over, especially when their grandparents and friends get involved, society and my family didn’t impose Star Wars on my daughter. I did.
Sitting on the couch watching the “Empire Strikes Back” (a personal favorite until “Rogue One” emerged from the ether), it struck me how this tradition is continuing on with her. Her fate was sealed the day she was born.
Shortly after Episode VII came out, my wife and I started acquiring functional light sabers, which I encouraged my daughter to play with far more than lesser, uncivilized toys. What toddler doesn’t love light plastic swords they can swing at unsuspecting parents?
There were other key educational items, too. Bottles of bubbles with Vader and Yoda screw caps (the caps are still popular bath toys) gave us the opportunity to practice talking like Vader and butchering Yoda’s idiosyncratic speech patterns.
Slowly but surely, the grand saga my parents passed onto me (my dad mostly) is now my daughter’s. Three generations of an unbroken tradition.
Unless my daughter reads these words some day and resents me for indoctrinating her into this tradition (cultural phenomenon really), it will continue on to the next generation, should she decide to continue it. (Also, Hollywood will likely continue cashing in on the franchise for the foreseeable future.)
This is how traditions get passed down through the generations. Many times it’s due to peer pressure. Other times, we actively want to continue a tradition. Sometimes we have no choice – it’s as if an all-powerful, invisible Force compels us. I think you get the picture.
May the Force be with you.

Matthew Koehler


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